We recently sat down with Ryan K. Lindsay, the talented writer and creator of Everfrost to talk about what makes a sci-fi miniseries tick, creating a compelling lead with your artist and following your storytelling instincts with a tight creative team.
CHRISTA HARADER: First off, thank you for your time! How’re you doing right now?
RYAN K. LINDSAY: I’m doing alright, thanks. Australia seems to be, mostly, in a good place so I’m taking each day to openly appreciate that and focus energies on being with my family, gardening, and writing comics. I hope you’re well, mate.
CH: Thanks! Let’s chat about Everfrost. How’d you come up with the idea, and how did you decide to work with Sami [Kivelä] again on this project?
RKL: The gestational path for this comic was a strange one because it started with an image. I was working my way through the Lady Snowblood manga, and absolutely loving it, and that imagery of a warrior in the snow is something I find captivating. So I started to see my own character with a long, long sword, and I had to try to figure her out.
My next step is always, "Okay, where are they and where are they going?" Then I have to work out why are they doing this. Answering that second question most often tells me who they are. I spend endless notebook pages writing questions at myself and answering them. It’s a fun, strange, tedious and enlightening process, and it never feels like it’s going to work. Right up until it does.
As for working with Sami again, I think I’m constantly trying to think of ways to lure Sami into working with me again. Our collaborations, and friendship, are one of the single greatest things I’ve been a part of in my journey with comics. This marks our fifth collaboration, and I think each time I try to think of something a little different - we’ve done city crime [with vampires,] and surf noir, and very, very weird. We’ve done sci-fi before, but I wanted to expand our scope on this one. I wanted to build a world and explore the cracks in it.
Deciding to work with Sami is a no-brainer. Figuring out how to get him to agree is always my trick. We don’t have another collaboration lined up yet, but my brain is always ticking, wondering which strangeness might be the puzzle piece that clicks us back together. I want to write something a little more straight fantasy - in appearance - and I know Sami would absolutely slay on that.
CH: How did Lauren [Affe] and Jim [Campbell] come onto the team, and what talents do they bring to Everfrost?
RKL: They both came through publisher Matt Pizzolo. They each bring an astounding understanding of how to do their jobs in a way that serves the story. Lauren’s colours push the mood of every scene, and I know she thinks deeply about focal points on a page. She’s a master at helping the reader navigate all the little things we need them to subtly be taking in.
Jim’s letters always excite me - his changing balloons, his caption fonts. He understands how to weave characterization and a sense of place into his work. It’s my first time working with them both, and I feel like our collective team energy is firing on all cylinders.
CH: We arrive in this universe mid-crisis, but Everfrost also gets very personal. Tell me about Van: was she modeled after anyone in your life, or any other characters?
RKL: She’s not specifically modeled on anyone I know. I think, like most of my characters, Van is a mash-up of various things I see in the world, swirled around a core of some theme my brain is slowly reducing over a tight flame in the back room where I hide all my weirdest thoughts.
I try not to fan-cast my creations too much. I think early on in my career, I would do that to help get an idea about the visual and movement sense of the character, but when you work with someone like Sami you know you’re going to get this completely inspired and unique and independent creation. So I go into it cooking up their internal struggle and values, and he takes care of the rest.
CH: You choose to drop us into the story and fill in the details in a William Gibson-esque way, or by experiencing it in action. What inspired that choice instead of a lore recap in issue #1?
RKL: Ultimately, two things: I think telling the reader is boring, and I don’t think I’m smart enough to do it well.
I want readers to focus on the character, because that’s central to my narrative, and the world should merely inform from the outside. That doesn’t mean I don’t think the world’s important, or I don’t need to understand it, but I always work really hard to strip out exposition from my books - and I know this means sometimes I’ll leave out explicitly stating information for the reader, but my reasoning is they should be able to parse that information through inference or action on the page, or else it’s just not important enough to need to clarify. It’s like the old “Who pumps up the tyres in the Batmobile?” question - some things don’t need to be explained through a character’s mouth. We should see the tyres full of air and know that they’re fine, will work and will take our character to their next existential crisis.
I do find it funny you asked because I strongly considered writing a little “World Precis” that would sit on the inside of the front cover with the text, but there was no way I could find to make that interesting in a way that made me want to write it. But the thought was there for a long, long time, and eventually I shelved it because I would reread our first issue and realize everything you need is there, and anything else you might want is on the page somewhere.
I will also say - completely opening up here - if you don’t lock in certain external information then you are allowed to tweak and change it as you need for any future issues. I think of George Lucas with this all the time - it feels like there’s no way he planned certain things in Star Wars, like Luke and Leia being twins, but he never definitively states against them so he’s open to twisting them for whatever purpose he might have later.
CH: No spoilers, obviously, but what can we expect going forward? Van has a reason to stick around now. What challenges will she encounter along the way, and will the bigger crisis impact her search?
RKL: There’s a story rule that you are supposed to make the world worse for your character a few times throughout the narrative. We definitely invoke that rule a-plenty.
There are trying situations, and even more diabolical decisions for Van to make, and we do that through family reunions, mech castle security, overthrow of oppression and one of the greatest locations Sami has ever created in issue #3.
I want readers to focus on the character, because that’s central to my narrative, and the world should merely inform from the outside. That doesn’t mean I don’t think the world’s important, or I don’t need to understand it, but I always work really hard to strip out exposition from my books - and I know this means sometimes I’ll leave out explicitly stating information for the reader, but my reasoning is they should be able to parse that information through inference or action on the page, or else it’s just not important enough to need to clarify.
CH: What makes this universe special and fun for you to create in?
RKL: Any time you get to create in a sandbox of your own design, you’re on very hallowed ground. I always dig sci-fi because I can let my imagination run as wild as possible and then I just need to find a way to explain what tumbles out - even if it’s just to myself, and not on the page. The future world of Van Louise is haunting and esoteric and full of murder and dragons and intrigue, but it’s also not that far from the world we live in today. It’s an ice mirror, held up to what we do and want now, and the reflection is cold, but truthful.
CH: What sci-fi, if any, inspired Everfrost and/or other comics you’ve worked on?
RKL: For this project, I thought about the warped realities Philip K. Dick would wrap around his stories of marriage troubles or people eschewing personal responsibility. He’s a writer who knew his way around absolutely crazy landscapes that worked for the purpose of taking a character through an internal struggle.
I also thought about Opena and Remender’s Seven to Eternity in regards to scope and insanity of creation. I thought about the bleakness of Escape from New York. I was also thinking about the sad futility of The Prisoner and the internal isolation of John Ford’s best works.
Sometimes an inspiration affects the visuals, sometimes the theme, but ultimately I try to centre around character, and they usually manifest from fears of mine or intense moments of intrigue about myself or the world around me.
CH: What advice do you have for writers looking to craft a sci-fi mini?
RKL: Oh, I feel like I’d be the worst person for this…
Make it about something. Know your character and their arc, and then from there just go bat-guano wild. If you’re creating other worlds, really shoot from the hip - read books of strange facts about earth. What lives in the darkest woods, or the deepest oceans? Let the strangeness we have here inform how strange it could get out there.
And don’t feel the need to explain every single biology or sociology snippet that appears on the page. It is your world. Own it with confidence, and a smile.
CH: Anything else you’d add? Any projects you’re working on that you’d like to share?
RKL: I just really hope people dig this tale and world we’ve created. Sami and I poured everything we have into this book, and I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. I hope people feel that Keanu saying “WHOA!” vibe right before they have to close the issue and just kind of sit with their feelings for a moment.
Everything in this story links and clicks and I am really proud of the ending we work towards.
If they dig this comic, and they haven’t gone looking already, I hope it pushes them to the other comics Sami Kivela has created. Undone by Blood, his comic with Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler, is both a spectacular story and a great example of a different way to tell a story.
I’ve got a story running through Heavy Metal starting soon, with co-creator Sebastián Píriz, and it’s a very different slice of sci fi from this book. Beyond that, I just need to find a sensory deprivation tank and go exploring inside myself for what I can work on next with Sami.